Woods-"Sun And Shade"
It seems like the saying "It's not another summer until you've heard the new Woods album" is becoming commonplace. Their fifth full length player "Sun and Shade", and their third album in three years is full of all the things Woods' fans have become familiar with. Jangle, indie folk in the vein of the Byrds with a nice touch of lo-fi quality. I could give you a look at last year's review on my feelings about their last album "At Echo Lake" and still give my feelings that they're more "McGuinn" than "Garcia" purists. One of the "knocks" I had against "At Echo Lake" was some of the songs felt short and not fully realized. On "Sun And Shade" the band actually improves this quality providing more fleshed out songs, "Any Other Day" and "To Have In The Home" are two great examples of the band at it's strength: mixing melancholy with jangle-noise folk.
And on the two standouts the opener "Pushing Onlys" and "Who Do I Think I Am", lead vocalist Jeremy Earl continues his poignant, frail take on nostalgia "Pushing onlys to waste the years away / In these same tattered clothes that I pushed through yesterday" or an honest look in the mirror, "Who do I think I am?/Who am I to be running around?/Bringing anyone but my own self down" are two of my favorite songs ever released by Woods. So with the upside of some fully realized songs instead of noodling here or there is some space long suites (7 & 9 minutes apiece) that shows the band at their "trippiest". Bongos appear on "Sol y Sombra" and a continuous drone underscores "Out Of The Eye". For me, I could do without either of them. I enjoy these guys when they're out their jangliest (new word folks!) and there is a plenty a jangle to go round on "Sun And Shade". More of the same with more to like and dislike, but in different ways.
Any Other Day
Be All Be Easy
Who Do I Think I Am
Death Cab For Cutie-"Codes And Keys"
It appears that Ben Gibbard and the rest of his mates have gone off and fallen in love. You can tell by the breezy atmosphere and warmth that surrounds a lot of the songs on their seventh proper album, "Codes & Keys", that these aren't the same moody poets with guitars ready to "rock" your coffee shop loft. And while long time fans may scratch their head a little at the comfortable corner Death Cab is sitting in, there is still enough of their trademark knack for melodies to keep the faithful satisfied. Musically, this is a "studio" album in every sense of the word "studio". Everything is placed in it's space to make the sound feel much more open than some of the claustrophobic/strangled feel of older Death Cab material. Does it work? Well, if you're looking for a more spacious Death Cab...I guess it sounds alright. They said they were aiming for a Radiohead "Kid A" vibe (not nearly as experimental here as you'd think, different, yes...but not that different) on "Codes and Keys", but I hear more of the warmth of a "In Rainbows" instead. Why? Probably because of all those aw shucks lyrics that Gibbard is throwing at you ears reminding you he's in love...he ain't the moody bastard he was on 2008's "Narrow Stairs". His recent marriage to Zooey Deschanel has Gibbard hearing symphonies on "Stay Young, Go Dancing" or coyly saying "Some boys don't know how to love" on "Some Boys" or waxing "There's no one in the sky/Just our love" on "Unobstructed Views". Does his new-found love get in the way of Death Cab's knack for plaintive moodiness? Um, sort of. It's not gushy though.
I mean here's the thing. It still is a Death Cab For Cutie album to the core. They have the instinct to write some great songs here. Whether it be on the lead-off single "You Are A Tourist" with it's cool shimmering guitar line, the sweet bouncing pop of the lovely "Underneath The Sycamore" or the barroom piano opening to the title track, they've got the chops still. But at times, maybe on the more "obtuse" sounding songs (like, "Doors Unlocked And Open"), they feel like they're playing from a great distance away and lack a great deal of the intimate energy they're best known for. So I'm feeling "Codes and Keys" to be a mixed bag of sorts. Fine and easy to listen to, but besides the aforementioned songs and a couple others, not exactly necessary or needlessly...there for show. The guys are growing up fine here, they're just moving on to surprisingly new places for the band and I'm not sure I'm willing to move on with them. Love is great in song. Divorce can be devastatingly as good as well....
Codes and Keys
You Are A Tourist
Underneath The Sycamore
Stay Young, Go Dancing
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